Runic Games Live Chats on Reddit


Rush pointed me to a Reddit AMA session with a bunch of the Runic Games employees from earlier today. The chat was mostly about Torchlight 2, but as the “ask me anything” classification promises, there were quite a few questions about Diablo and Blizzard. I went through the transcript and pulled those, gave them some formatting, and you can read them all below.

The devs were polite and cordial so there’s nothing real shocking or controversial, but both Max and Erich Schaefer offered some interesting critiques of Diablo III; mostly focused on the way the item system and the Auction House forces players to buy loot, instead of finding it by playing.

Did you make any changes to Torchlight II based on how Diablo 3 players reacted to the changes Blizzard implemented to the Diablo franchise? If so, what changes were made as a result?
Marsh Lefler: With all honestly I can say I can’t think of a single thing we changed. We knew what game we were making and by the time Diablo 3 came out there was little time to change the core mechanics of our game. ( we had to be out by end of summer! )

Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): Actually, not a whole lot. Given the direction of their game versus what we were doing, their design decisions didn’t really end up affecting ours. This biggest change I believe we made in response was renaming our first dungeon because it was also named the Defiled Crypt.

I believe the current team at Blizzard has not just failed, but butchered what you guys created in their version of “Diablo” 3. I know I am very partial to Diablo 2, but anyone who has played D1/D2 and then goes to play Diablo 3 can easily tell that this does not have the same passion and heart in it as you and your team had when creating the world of Diablo. How do you feel about Diablo 3? I mean both of you; really tell me the truth here. Also, what would you have done differently?
Erich Schaefer: I don’t believe the D3 team has failed or butchered anything. They made an awesome game that I enjoyed a lot. These games are incredibly hard to make. I see a lot of passion in what they did. That said…

re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there’s a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that’s so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

The other big thing is the character customization. I really have no clue where this idea that what aarpgs need is fewer customization choices came from. I want to make a character that succeeds or fails based on my decisions. And after that I want to make another and then another that are totally different. I guess there a lot of people that don’t want to carve their own way through these games, but for me it’s critical.

That was just a quick excerpt; click through for a lot more.

Transcript taken from the Reddit AMA chat. Full transcript here.

Are you guys tired of being asked Diablo 3 questions?
Erich Schaefer: YES!

Can we ask you about Hellgate and Mythos instead?
Erich Schaefer: Go ahead, but make it fast. Trying to wrap this up and get back to work (and by that I mostly mean trying out FTL).

Did you make any changes to Torchlight II based on how Diablo 3 players reacted to the changes Blizzard implemented to the Diablo franchise? If so, what changes were made as a result?
Marsh Lefler: With all honestly I can say I can’t think of a single thing we changed. We knew what game we were making and by the time Diablo 3 came out there was little time to change the core mechanics of our game. ( we had to be out by end of summer! )

Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): Actually, not a whole lot. Given the direction of their game versus what we were doing, their design decisions didn’t really end up affecting ours. This biggest change I believe we made in response was renaming our first dungeon because it was also named the Defiled Crypt.

How good is the relationship between Max Schaefer, Erich Schaefer, David Brevik and Bill Roper in 2012? Does the original Condor team still talk and have a good relationship? I believe these names to be the greatest combination of minds in gaming.
Erich Schaefer: Max and I are pretty tight, seeing as we’re brothers, live in the same building and work at the same job. Still great friends with Brevik and Roper. I don’t see them as often as I’d like, especially Bill, who’s moved away, but we share some long time bonds forged by some of the best times and worst times. I don’t keep up too much with the old Condor team, except Matt Uelmen and Peter Hu, and a few guys that were friends from even before Condor, but its great to see them at conventions or the occasional drinking fest.

“One of the key reasons for the closure was Blizzard North’s poor development of what was to be Diablo III which did not meet the expectations of Vivendi” –Question 1, Do you agree with the previous reasoning behind the B.North split? If not, what is your reason, the real reason?
Erich Schaefer: That reason is a joke! Never heard it before, though. The reasons we split were many, but the main one was that Vivendi was shopping our studio around to buyers with no input from us, the team (both Bliz North and South). And the process was taking a long time, during which they kept deferring renegotiating our bonus structure. (Our profitability was still growing, but the bonus structure wasn’t keeping up with it due to a lot of complex crap.) So we said: “hey, either we get some say in this stuff… you know, our whole future… or we’re going to resign.” And they said: buh-bye. Another reason for me personally was just sort of some wanderlust, though. It was time for some new adventures. I was getting fat and lazy at Blizzard.

I believe the current team at Blizzard has not just failed, but butchered what you guys created in their version of “Diablo” 3. I know I am very partial to Diablo 2, but anyone who has played D1/D2 and then goes to play Diablo 3 can easily tell that this does not have the same passion and heart in it as you and your team had when creating the world of Diablo. How do you feel about Diablo 3? I mean both of you; really tell me the truth here. Also, what would you have done differently?
Erich Schaefer: I don’t believe the D3 team has failed or butchered anything. They made an awesome game that I enjoyed a lot. These games are incredibly hard to make. I see a lot of passion in what they did. That said…

re: D3, while I think its a tremendous accomplishment, there’s a couple things they did that really hurt my personal ability to keep playing. The auction house, even the regular one, detracts from my own loot gathering. I hate seeing all the great stuff that’s so easy to purchase and is so much better than what I can find on my own.

The other big thing is the character customization. I really have no clue where this idea that what aarpgs need is fewer customization choices came from. I want to make a character that succeeds or fails based on my decisions. And after that I want to make another and then another that are totally different. I guess there a lot of people that don’t want to carve their own way through these games, but for me it’s critical.

As a hiring authority myself I have a great understanding of IT contracting and I have often wondered if the bad blood between you and Blizzard has prevented them from at least allowing you two to consult on the Diablo 3 project, to lend your expertise as creators and founders of the world of Diablo. Did you ever get asked by Blizzard to consult or 1099 for the D3 project? If not, how big of a mistake do you think this was? I really cannot fathom their thought process, trying to create something without the heart (Max) and Brain (Erich, sorry Max) behind the entire concept of Diablo. PS: Do you foresee working on the Diablo 3 Expansion, after such negative feedback Blizzard has received on their Diablo 3, do you think they will consider working with you two for the Expansion? Would you even want to?
Erich Schaefer: No, Blizzard never asked me to consult. Nor would they ever – its not their culture and rightfully so. Nor would I have accepted. I have to be an intrinsic part of the team or not be involved at all. I don’t think it was a mistake on their part. That team has to grow and coalesce together without outside distractions. It would have been just weird as hell, probably… There’s no way I could ever see working on another Diablo product with one extremely improbable exception. If I could afford to buy back the rights, I would in a heartbeat. And then I’d turn it over to David Brevik, the true Heart and Brain behind Diablo.

If you could re-unite the entire original Blizzard North Team (David Brevik, Bill Roper) to work on a Diablo 1 and Diablo 2 Movie, would you? (Please!!) If so, which director would you want to work on a Diablo movie? Any actor choices in mind for the main cast!?
Erich Schaefer: A Diablo movie would be fantastic. But I’m not the guy to do it. That would of course be Uwe Boll. (Actually Roper would be the man.) This is all goofy talk, of course. It’s not going to have anything to do with me if it ever does happen.

What are your personal favorite characters from the Diablo universe and why?
Erich Schaefer: My favorite characters from the Diablo universe are every character I created and developed, and chose skills for, and equipped, and kicked Diablo’s ass with. I have no love for the NPCs other than Cain. And the cocktail midget.

I don’t want to turn this into a shit-sling but I was really wondering what your thoughts on Diablo III are – both the positives and the negatives.
Max Schaefer: I’m happy to answer this. We know how hard it is to make games like this, so we have a lot of respect for Blizzard and the Diablo III team. Even if they made choices that are different than ours or those of some of their customers, you cannot make a game of that magnitude, polish, and quality without a dedicated and talented team. Of course their launch was not perfect (whose are?), but they seem to be working hard to address player issues, and I think those who are negative towards them should give them some time to make adjustments. We are happy to provide an alternative, though, too. The genre is big enough for a lot of approaches and styles. I personally am happy for Diablo III, Path of Exile, Borderlands 2, Grim Dawn, and the other ARPGs that are revitalizing the genre. And we are all at least a little bit in debt to Blizzard and the D3 team for bringing literally millions of new gamers into our genre.

Making games is physically and emotionally exhausting. It’s distressing to see the level of criticism people engage in when they aren’t 100% satisfied, and while they certainly have a right to their opinions (we all have ’em), at the same time we should have an authentic respect for those who spend years of their lives pouring their talents into these games. Runic Games respects and admires Blizzard for all they have done for our industry.

Diablo 3. Do any of you play it? What parts do you like/dislike most?
Matt Tanwanteng (Tiamat): I played it to 60 when it came out, then I played about a paragon level and a half after 1.04. The combat is great, and being able to play around with spell combinations is a lot of fun. I dislike having to spend time on the auction house.

I don’t have a good question, I just wanted you to know that instead of preordering Torchlight II, I blew my money on Diablo 3 and got majorly burned. What would you say to customers in my position, who are maybe afraid to spend the money on a similar game in case the same thing happens?
Max Schaefer: I suspect that they will patch Diablo3 and make adjustements that make a lot of people more satisfied. However, in the meantime, please look at our videos, press, reviews, and see what we’ve done differently. A lot of what people complained about in D3 are not present in Torchlight II. We think the vast majority if people will be pleased with what we’ve done. Plus, it’s only $20, so your risk is low even if it’s not your cup of tea.

Interesting answers and questions, eh? I’ve not played that much TL2 yet; just a few hours with an Engineer, but I immediately noticed both things Erich mentioned in this chat. The fun of finding good items, including sets and uniques all the time, and the fact that there’s some RP in the G.

Diablo III is fun in a lot of ways, but the lack of any thought or decision ever required for character building is weird. Every time I level up in TL2 it takes me a minute to remember that I just got a skill point and some stat points, that I can assign them where I want, and that it will make a big difference in how my character plays. It’s almost scary at first, with the “don’t want to screw up my build” paralysis, but soon enough I just took a different attitude. “This is my first char, he’ll probably suck in the end, but I’m going to have fun now.” So I am.

Tagged As: | Categories: Ex-Blizzard, Torchlight 2

Comments

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  1. I’d put money on the notion that Erich Schaefer is lying through his teeth when he says Blizzard didn’t screw up D3. Then again, he is trying to stay diplomatic about it, given what happened with Jay “F that loser” Wilson and David Brevik.

    • He has the power to destroy any credibility Blizzard has left at this moment. People like Erich Schaefer have the power while people like Jay Wilsowned have non.

      I wish more people would speak out and be critical, the world is dumb and afraid. Fuck the political correctness.

      • Seriously? You “wish more people would speak out and be critical”? Despite the fact that you are using it now, have you heard of this new thing called the internet? The world is hardly “dumb and afraid” when it’s hidden behind anonymous usernames.

        When it comes to the real world, as in this interview, it is often a bit better to think things through before you speak, as you have to take responsibility for your words and actions. There is a huge difference between being PC and being a reasonable, thinking human being who actually has to live with what you say publicly.

    • I don’t think Erich is “lying through his teeth”, or being overly diplomatic. It actually seems like a reasonable response to me. Considering that they’ve consistently said the same thing over and over again, this appears to be their genuine opinion. Honestly, they don’t really have any reason to be PC about this. It’s not as if they are going to make the relationship between themselves and Blizzard any worse, personally or professionally. And they would only stand to gain from playing up the controversy.

      I think it kind of boils down to this: Making games at this level is simply much more difficult and complicated than most fans assume. Exponentially more when you take the expectations into consideration. It sounds more to me like professionals who understand the trials and hardships firsthand giving credit to another dev team. Even though the current team made some choices that they personally would not have (and, it’s worth noting, many fans of the series would not have), that in itself does not make D3 a bad game. Whether it makes it a bad “Diablo” game, in the sense of continuing the heart & soul of the first two, is a completely different question… which I haven’t seen asked or answered in that very specific context. People instead seem to keep asking half of that question at a time.

      There is absolutely no question that D3 was my personal “most highly anticipated” game of all time. Ask my wife… she got sick of hearing about it several years ago. And I definitely was let down quite a bit when I finally got my hands on the finished product and spent some time with it. I completely understand the frustration of many of the old-school D2 players. There was a kind of disconnect there that just made it feel completely different in so many ways.

      But… over time, that is exactly what became D3’s saving grace, at least for me personally. I started to see it as a completely different game; almost as if someone had hit the reset button, and instead of seeing it as a direct sequel, I started to look at it as a new dev team’s re-imagining of the Diablo franchise (which, in many ways, is exactly what it is). This altered perspective allowed me to step back and look at it fresh, as if it were a complete standalone game that happened to be in the same genre and shared the same lore. To me, viewing it as a “Diablo” game… well, it wouldn’t come highly recommended. Viewing it in and of itself- it’s a pretty solid game.

      Put very simply: If I had designed it, it would be quite a bit different. But obviously I didn’t, and when it comes down to it, I still enjoy it despite it’s flaws.

      I know a lot of you won’t agree with that at all, and will start in about the AH, itemization, etc. Trust me, I get all that. But if it had a different title AND different lore… if it were sold as a completely new game by a fledgling start-up, do you honestly think you would hate it as much? (I understand that it wasn’t, and that that is a big part of the problem you have… but I’m just tossing a hypothetical out there.)

      Maybe instead of calling it “Diablo 3” they should have titled it “Sanctuary” (or some other oblique reference to Diablo lore) and sold it as a re-imagining instead of a sequel. I can almost guarantee that it wouldn’t have generated anywhere near as much backlash. It almost certainly would have also sold fewer copies on release, but that’s a different argument altogether.

      Anyway, that’s how I came to terms with the game as it stands. Maybe that will help at least a few folks to stop seeing it as $60 wasted, and look at it as an investment in a ‘new’ franchise of sorts. (And yes, there is a bit of self-delusion involved in that, but it’s better than endlessly raging for months over what could have/should have been. Isn’t it about to time to either come to terms or move on?)

  2. It was a bit surreal reading this thing. The situation is pretty much perfect for them. Massive game gets major back lash, they come in as the small friendly company here to make everything better. You couldn’t write a better scenario.

    Looking forward to 10 AM tomorrow. Game looks quality.

  3. ” Erich Schaefer: There’s no way I could ever see working on another Diablo product with one extremely improbable exception. If I could afford to buy back the rights, I would in a heartbeat. And then I’d turn it over to David Brevik, the true Heart and Brain behind Diablo.”

    That would be a dream come true.

    • They should KICKSTART THIS SHIT get money for Diablo! Buy it out and make it in to something great!!!!!!

      KICKSTART THIS MOFO!!!! I AM THROWING MONEY AT MONITOR BUT ITS NOT WORKING!!! HURRY!!!

  4. I am not sure when this fan-site turned into a hate-site. If you think D2 was better, you can still go an play that, no one is taking it away from you 🙂

    For me, a day of pony hunting in Torchlight was enough… but I dont hate D3 so maybe i am biased.

    • Hear hear. Stop the hate please. In D3 they were a brand new team who took some very bold choices with the skill system and art style, probably with full knowledge of how people would react to it.

      That Chris Metzen’s story sucked ass is not the team’s fault. They did something brilliant with D3 despite the Twilight-level story and that’s awesome. Give credit to the new guys and become a Diablo fansite or start a site called http://www.weloveBlizzardNorth.com for God’s sake.

      And why the f can’t I login?

      • since the word ‘hate’ has been bandied around for the most banal of things on the internet nowadays it’s now practically worthless. It barely conveys even a disliking now.

        • There’s a difference between hate and being constructively critical. Fine line, I admit, but there’s a line nonetheless. I feel this site treads it pretty carefully (althouh they’ve probably gone over to the hate side at least once or twice).

          And if you think this is hate, check out the “general discussion” forum on the official diablo 3 website.

    • It turned into a D3 hate site when Blizzard gave us an uninspired and poorly designed game to hate. Sorry. It’s not about going back to D2, it’s about one of my most anticipated games of all time being streamlined and a huge disappointment.

  5. Seems like this site is a spot for other games.
    OK there aren’t many news about Diablo 3 on the way, but who really want to know the personal thoughts of Max, Erich Schaefer, etc. for Diablo 3?
    Please put Torchlight in the Torchlight room.
    Max and Erich weren’t working at all at Diablo 3. Get them out of here.

    Thanks.

  6. @Playmo its like sayin u dont want to hear the thoughts of David Bravik on D3 too, that was posted 1 month ago

  7. +10 for their diplomacy:)

  8. Just so everyone knows. This is Diablo: IncGamers. It covers everything Diablo. Diablo 1, Diablo 2 and Diablo 3. Also, we post the good and the bad because that’s what news site do. Perhaps new visitors need to be reminded of this 😉

  9. Holy shit! Even Bobby Kotick doesn’t like Diablo 3!

  10. Erich is certainly spot on regarding AH and customization in D3.

  11. I still don’t get what people mean when they talk about ‘character customization’. Do they just mean that they don’t like D3’s skill/rune system and prefer D2’s system? Even if one prefers D2 to D3 in this way (and I prefer D3), that doesn’t translate to ‘character customization’ to me. Is there some other axis of variation open to players in D2 that is closed in D3?

    If all they mean is that they don’t like D3’s skill/rune system, I wish they’d say that, because then I could talk specifically about the things I like about skill/rune that make me prefer it to D2’s talent trees.

  12. People saying that the Schaefer’s et al shouldn’t be so politically correct are just projecting their own emotions onto others. How about a simpler explanation that they just aren’t a*holes? An A-hole would take joy in tearing down someone else’s work and would go out of their way to slander the people involved. Guys like the Schaefers are decent dudes who are probably awesome to hang out and have a beer with and while they probably have the occassional “oh what might have been” thought, they’ve basically just moved on, succesfully, with their lives and careers. I thought their answers were honest and not some facade of PC-ness.

    I also agree re: auction house. Before launch I thought “what a great idea, great concept, get rid of all the third party sketchy sites etc etc” and in the end it’s just a system that is not a fit for this type of game and by being in the game actually undermines what made the game so fun before. I would be overjoyed if Blizzard just shut the AHs down altogether in a future patch – “our bad, we thought this was a great idea and istead it’s ruining the fun”

    • I’d like to take a moment to thank you for your very lucid and reasonable response to the ‘AH’s effect on D3’ issue. As someone who does like the AH, it’s nice to see something more sophisticated than ‘AH sux lol jay wilsowned!!1!’.

      And doubly so for liking the idea and deciding that you don’t like it after seeing it in action. So rare and refreshing to see someone experience something and change their mind in a reasonable fashion on the internet.

  13. Good interesting article, thanks.

  14. Hi, I’m a new user of this site and I love how this site is not licking Blizzard’s ass no matter what. I am so sick of all the corporate talk from Blizzard and their fan sites. don’t get me wrong I was a great Blizzard fan for years, but the decline of quality and their lack of spirit / lust for dollars after TBC is so obvious. It’s refreshing too see people with balls saying what’s bad, instead of shallow advertorial interviews.

  15. Love Runic but I hate it when they just say the politically correct things in public. With that said, been playing Torchlight II all day and it trumps everything that Blizzard has done with Diablo 3 big time. You actually find gear on your own instead of some gold farmer charging an outrageous price on an auction house. Oh and yes single player is working as intended…

  16. I played about 5 hours on an Ember mage last night – and.. having to stand and actually think about what skills to take was so refreshing.. I settled on pouring all my points into the Magma Shot thing, with the rest going in to Wand Chaos (possibly the most awesome passive ever).

    Now, I’m taking advantage of the respec your last 3 choices thing to try out each new ability when it becomes available and then pick 2 complimentary skills.

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